Friday night, the Lakers looked to rebound from a disappointing, lifeless loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night. Looking to get back to .500 the crew had the tough task of taking on the Portland Trail Blazers but did have the advantage of playing at home. The Blazers have been led by speedy rookie point guard Damien Lillard to the tune of 15 wins and 14 losses. The key for the Lakers would be playing with energy, something they lacked against Denver.
Another noteworthy story for Laker fans was the retirement of Jamaal Wilkess’ number 52 jersey.
Dwight Howard fined but not suspended: Some good news for the Lakers was the fact that center Dwight Howard would play tonight after being fined 35,000 dollars for a flagrant foul against Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. The league made the decision not to suspend Howard as they typically do with flagrant fouls.
The Laker started with Steve Nash at point guard, Darius Morris at shooting guard, Kobe Bryant at small forward, Pau Gasol at power forward, and Dwight Howard at center. Neither team got off to a strong start as baskets from Kobe and Steve Nash were answered by shots from LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. The Lakers tried to pound the ball inside to gain an advantage. Steve Nash continued to facilitate the offense with a beautiful lob alley-oop to Dwight Howard. Steve Nash then set up Kobe and the Lakers soon had a 14-8 lead. A red hot Kobe Bryant with a quick trigger soon had the Lakers up 19-10.
After a Portland timeout, the Lakers continued to run and gun. Dwight dominated the Blazers and soon had nine points and multiple rebounds. Highlighted by a beautiful putback on one play and a soft hook on the other, he was truly a force to be reckoned with. Solid defense had the Lakers up 24-14 with four minutes to go.
Turnovers by the Lakers late in the quarter gave Portland life but L.A. still led after one by a score of 34-25.
The Lakers came into the second period looking to keep the energy level up without letting Portland’s bench go on a run. Dwight got the Lakers off to a good start with a three point play as Portland continued to fire up outside shots. Portland quickly went on a 9-2 run before Jodie Meeks answered with a three. Defensive breakdowns, however, led to even more Blazer baskets. By the first official timeout with eight minutes to go, the Lakers had only a five point lead.
Dwight Howard promptly answered the Portland run with yet another three point play that he failed to convert. Another Blazer miss led to a Jodie Meeks three and just like that the Lakers were back up by ten. The Lakers answered every Portland jumper with more inside post ups to Dwight as Steve Nash returned to the game with six minutes to go. Pau was the last starter to score and got his first point on a free throw with 5:22 to go. The team in purple and gold proceeded to play inside-out with Dwight and soon had their largest lead of the game at 13. As Steve Nash continued to both score and dish out assists, the Lakers stretched their lead. Pau Gasol soon hit a three to put the Lakers up by 20.
Strong defense from the Lakers coupled with strong play on offense had the Lakers up 62-48 at halftime.
The Lakers ended the second quarter with some sloppy play but looked to fix those mistakes with a strong start to the second half. The teams started the quarter by battling back and forth and trading buckets. The Lakers did a solid job of preventing Portland from coming back in the game by taking advantage of turnovers and running the fast break well. LaMarcus Aldridge kept his team in the game and had 24 points early in the third period.
Superb play and a scoring surge from Kobe stretched the Laker lead to 18 over the openly frustrated Trailblazers. As the Lakers continued to turn defense into offense, they seemed to be a completely different team from the one we saw in Denver. As the Lakers continued to dominate in transition, even Darius Morris got an alley oop dunk served up by Kobe. As the usual suspects(Jordan Hill and Metta World Peace) out-hustled the opponents, the Lakers took advantage of every extra possession. By the time 2:19 remained in the third quarter, hustle from all five Lakers had them up by 21.
By the time the third period was over, the Lakers led 88-66.
The Lakers began the fourth with Pau Gasol as the only starter on the floor. As both teams knew the game was out of reach for Portland, Pau Gasol immediately buried a three pointer. The Lakers had most of their premier players on the bench resting for next Tuesday’s showdown with Philadelphia.
As Pau continued to pad his stats, some of the Trail Blazers’ players also enjoyed garbage time. Nolan Smith and other bench-warmers even made appearances for Portland. With the game safely away, the Lakers still played hard as Jodie Meeks was blocked on two layups but kept the play alive before draining a three. Tonight’s game saw a plethora of energy and defensive effort, the very ingredients lacking in Wednesday’s games.
Dwight rebounded from a disappointing performance while Kobe and Steve Nash maintained their levels of excellence. Pau Gasol also played well as he continues to adjust to his new role. With no better way for the Lakers to honor Jamaal Wilkes than with the impressive performance they put on tonight, the final score was 104-87.